Portland’s Best (and Biggest) Sandwich

Christopher Onstott

Among Portland, Oregon‘s ever-expanding food cart scene, one four-wheeler has drawn the attention, appetites, and acclaim of enthusiasts nationwide: Big-Ass Sandwiches, whose signature offering leaves no hunger unfulfilled. Simply titled “The Big-Ass Sandwich,” this behemoth is a smooth blend of roast beef, grilled onions, bacon, fries, and cheddar béchamel sauce, all served on a fresh sourdough ciabatta roll.

Diners first encounter the hearty roast beef, which is slow cooked for three hours and cooled for 24 before hitting the grill. Then there are the French fries: Made from scratch on the premises, they’re thinly sliced, then blanched, and finally deep-fried once the remaining ingredients are prepared. Atop the fries rests a creamy roux-based layer of cheddar sauce, and atop that – somehow – is a second layer of fries. All of the cart’s sandwiches are variations on the Big-Ass, which chef-owner Brian Wood designed for reasons of pure practicality. “They’re built for people who are sweating their asses off on a kitchen line,” he says, “when you have nine minutes to cram as many calories down your gullet as possible.”

As the Big-Ass started gaining notoriety in town, it started getting attention from out-of-towners, too – early supporters included comedians Patton Oswalt and Brian Posehn – but what really ignited the cart’s success was Adam Richman, host of the Travel Channel’s ‘Man v. Food.’ The Brooklyn-born chef first visited in 2012, returning to feature it on his latest venture, “Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America.” The Big-Ass ultimately made it to the finale, only to lose to a roast pork offering from Philadelphia.

“I can’t thank him enough – it’s changed our life completely,” says Wood’s wife Lisa, who co-owns the cart. “Calling something the best sandwich in the northwest… it’s subjective,” she explains. “We know there will be people who hate it, and that’s fine.” [$7.50, Big Ass Sandwiches, 304 SE 2nd Ave, Portland, OR; bigasssandwiches.com]